SK Battery Plant Puts Georgia In Driver’s Seat for Green Energy Jobs

Andrew Young, Pat Wilson

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

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Our mission is straightforward – to be for the people of Georgia, our economy, our workforce and our state’s role in growing new technology manufacturing here in the U.S. We welcome companies’ investments and the jobs they bring. To all innovators who are thinking about where to headquarter your good ideas, Georgia is a friendly place to do business. That’s what sets Georgia apart.

When we recently read an opinion editorial on InsiderAdvantage from two authors we respect, arguing that Georgians should give up on the biggest foreign investment in our state’s history, we grew concerned. We are talking about the SK Innovation (SKI) electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in Commerce (Jackson County), which has garnered $2.6 billion in capital investment and 2,600 clean energy jobs– with the promise of much more investment and many more jobs through the co-location of SKI suppliers.

Contrary to the urging of the op-ed, the International Trade Commission’s recent ruling favoring one Korean competitor (LG Chem) over another (SKI) in a lawsuit should not mean that 2,600 clean energy jobs in Commerce should be cast aside. The outcome of the administrative court process in the U.S. or Korea is not part of Georgia’s purview, and it should not threaten the Jackson County plant.

President Joe Biden has the ability to cancel the ITC’s ruling and send the two companies back to the negotiating table so we can all drive an electric Ford-150 or Volkswagen made right here in Georgia. The ITC ruling that imperils thousands of direct and indirect Georgia jobs and postpones the future of the new era auto industry was not a ruling on any “theft” or misappropriation of trade secrets as was alleged in the op-ed, but a technical ruling about destroying documents in Korea years ago.

We’re past planning for these 2,600 workers who would power a new EV battery plant. The EV battery plant is built. The second phase plant has begun. SKI has already hired and trained more than 220 Georgians to start building batteries. Others are training for these long-term jobs right now. Additional suppliers, investing tens of millions of dollars and creating hundreds of jobs, have already begun to locate nearby to fill the abundant needs of an automotive industry that will undergo more change in the next 20 years than in the last 100. Even if the ITC is stuck in neutral, Georgia is not. This plant is scheduled to power the next generation of Ford and Volkswagen trucks and cars starting next year.

Right now over 70 percent of the world’s lithium ion battery cell manufacturing takes place in China. Without the batteries that SKI plans to manufacture here in Jackson County, the U.S. risks future supply chain disruptions to U.S. auto manufacturing. The Georgia SKI plant is crucial to building a robust and independent American EV industry.

Georgia is forward-looking and is seizing on our clean energy future. Backing out now would be wrong. This isn’t a partisan issue, and the consequences for Georgia and the country are significant. As a home to both of these great companies, we invite SK Innovation and LG Chem to sit down together with state leaders to find a less confrontational and more collaborative way ahead.

The needs of the EV industry are urgent, and Georgia must continue to play a role in fulfilling those needs.

The authors are former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Pat Wilson.